I live in Jerusalem, the eternal city. Jerusalem, the city of gold. Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people.
Little ol' me, born in New York City and raised in Ohio, U.S.A., little ol' nothing-special me, I live here in Jerusalem.
King David wandered in these hills -- the very hills in which I sometimes find myself stuck in a traffic jam. He wandered, and I ride. But they are the same hills, the same Land, the same sky overhead. King David, Samuel the Prophet, Rebbeca and Rachel, Resh Lakish, and … me.
Poor Moses -- he didn't get here. Yet I did. What an amazing honor. How totally, unbelievably, stupendously unbelievable.
No more treks across the desert to get here; all you need is the desire and will, and an El Al plane ticket.
Amazing. Little ol' me. Here in this beautiful city and Land where God's eyes are constantly, directly watching over us. The place of which it is stated: "Anyone who lives in the Land of Israel is free of sin." [Kesubos, 111a]! Did you catch that? It says anyone! That means little ol' me, too.
How absolutely fortunate I am to be living in this era when it is so possible for me to be here. And how absolutely fortunate that I am living here, in this Holy, wholly unbelievable country.
It's not just the holiness. And it's not just the landscape. And it's not just the history, going back thousands upon thousands of years. And it's not just being in the front-row seat of history-in-the-making.
It's the people, the People of Israel, all around, everywhere, concurrently bringing to life the concept of an ingathering from the four corners of the world, while allowing me to be immersed amidst this amazingly holy people and place.
Are there problems? Irritations? Disappointments? Of course. But it has always been that way. This is just how the Almighty made it. Disappointments and problems are built into the system. He's the one who wanted us to be separate and distinct peoples within one distinct People. (Just notice how He organized us in the desert -- 12 flags for 12 distinct tribes, rather than one homogeneous unit.)
So my Ashkenazi daughter likes spicy Yeminite harissa, and I get freaked out the days before Yom Kippur when many women are carrying live chickens on the public buses, in baskets, in order to do kapparot the real way, like their mothers did at home (rather than my way, with money in a sanitized white handkerchief).
Where my "Yankee ingenuity" and efficiency is appalled by "Russian-socialist" bosses standing around and passively allowing lines of waiting people to get longer and longer, and I've come to appreciate "Israeli rudeness" which is a wholesome change from the less-than-genuine politeness that existed in Germany and England.
Here in Israel we are all here, all part of the beautiful mosaic called Jerusalem - in God's chosen city in His chosen Land. Unreal! And I'm a part of it?!?
How marvelous -- how important -- that I can be a part of correcting these things, with the opportunity to glorifying the Name of God 24/7.
A place where 11:30 p.m. is very, very late at night, where children of five years old are sent alone to do grocery shopping, and where guests from other countries keep stopping in for food and lodgings "for a few days" because they are neighbor's to my third cousin's friend in New York.
Where buses are stuffed with people who would certainly help me if I needed it, and where strangers will yell at children who don't stand up and give their seats to older people and pregnant women.
Where children are trained to help elderly strangers carry their packages, and where teenagers organize shifts in hospitals for helping neighbors and friends of their neighbors and friends. Where it is normal to get free advice on how to dress your infant ("Put a hat over your baby's ears, there is a draft…"), and no one thinks that they are prying if they ask you how much something costs -- even your apartment.
Where Tehillim groups operate in most neighborhoods and mezuzahs are on every door of every store and public and government building, let alone on virtually all the homes. Where the cab driver whom you have never before seen in your life wants to lend you 50 shekels in case you run out of money at the beach ("Send the money back to me in the mail").
Where we realize that we are living a Jewish life on every level, contributing to the Jewish People and the history of our nation by building our Land and strengthening the presence of God's chosen people in His chosen Land -- not standing on the sidelines, but sitting right in the center of the field.
The dream is not yet complete - we still have lots of problems and much dissention. But God loves us, and our Land, anyway. And we are in the process of getting there. Yes, there is work to be done. But how marvelous - how important - that I can be a part of correcting these things, with the opportunity to glorifying the Name of God 24/7.
How lucky I am to live here! How exciting. How marvelous. And how special.
I thank you, Jerusalem, for letting me walk on your streets, and I thank you God for allowing me to be a part of all this, here, in Your favorite, most desirable Home Land.